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Bob Forrest and Keirda Bahruth Capture the “Monster”

Bob Forrest and Keirda Bahruth Capture the “Monster” (photo)

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In the midst of one of the biggest music festivals in the world, Bob Forrest wanted the music to be shut off. “Look at this fucking thing that’s going on,” he asks me, gazing back in the direction of Austin’s infamous 6th Street. He laughs, “Do you want to be over there in that fucking thing?”

Though Forrest is still an active musician, there was a time when he was right in the middle of the fray. As the frontman of Thelonious Monster, he came up with a group of Los Angeles bands including the likes of Red Hot Chili Peppers and Fishbone (also the subject of an excellent documentary at SXSW called “Everyday Sunshine”) that ruled the L.A. scene in the early ’80s with a sound that found the rhythm in chaos described as “drunk rock” by one critic. And Forrest was drunk, and high for most of it, alienating bandmates, missing in action for his immediate family and failing upward as Thelonious Monster became coveted by major labels, even though the band would never hold together long enough with a tempermental lead singer to ever see mainstream success.

However, where “Bob and the Monster” differs from most documentaries about burnt out musicians is that Forrest ultimately traded one art for another, becoming a drug counselor with an unusually compassionate touch. Some may know this already from “Celebrity Rehab,” the VH1 show where he’s often been a shoulder to cry on and without a doubt the calmest person in the house. (Outside is another matter since as he told the audience at the film’s premiere, “lf you’re a fan of that show, I appreciate it, but I’m not.”)

Still, what director Keirda Bahruth captures in “Bob and the Monster” is the wild streak that fueled Forrest’s early days as singer/songwriter who found eloquence in the mundane to his crusade against the accepted treatment of addiction, which trades out injections and inhalations for prescription pills in favor of a more human, compassionate approach. As the film demonstrates, none of this came easy to Forrest, who had to endure some unusual discoveries in his family tree, a post-rock life flipping burgers in the L.A. coffee shop Millie’s, and a particularly ill-conceived cover of Jimmy Ruffin’s “What Becomes of the Broken Hearted” on his way to becoming a confidant to the likes of Courtney Love and opening his own shop, Hollywood Recovery Services, to practice the treatment that helped him recover from his own demons. A day after the film’s premiere at SXSW, Forrest and Bahruth sat down to discuss his remarkable story, as well as some of what wasn’t in the film, the ways the music industry and the drug industry are quite similar, and why there really are second acts.

How did this documentary come together?

Keirda Bahruth: I have been aware of Bob since I was a teenager through his band Thelonious Monster. I was a fan of his band and through that, I came across a record that he put out called “The Bicycle Thief” in 2000. When I heard that record, I was really moved. I knew Bob had a drug problem back in those days and “The Bicycle Thief” is a very autobiographical record, so you could hear a lot of his story. And I became very intrigued with wanting to make a film about him. I knew that there was a really compelling, interesting story, and Bob is very likeable, so I approached him.

Bob Forrest: The Bicycle Thief record really is a document of what happened after the crash – it has a song about the first time I picked up a guitar sober, like really sober after years of trying. And I always feared getting back into music because I thought it would lead back into drugs. A lot of that is on there – that hesitancy. It’s a pretty honest document of what it’s like to survive drug addiction and what it’s like to try to create a second happier life. Then [Keirda] came and asked about the story and the story hadn’t been written yet. That’s why the film kind of ends like what is he doing? [laughs] I like that feeling because I don’t know what I’m doing. I’ve got a company. I know that. I’m barely breaking even, I know that. I’ve got a philosophy that’s not very popular, I know that. [laughs]

KB: But you know what, Bob? One of the things that he said to me when I said I want to make a documentary about you, and he said, “that’s great. There’s been a few people that have tried already.” So what had happened there?

BF: There was more of a kind of biopic version of it and then people were compiling things, but why I think the film is so compelling is that there is a developing second act of my life. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “There’s no second acts in American life” – that’s because he’s an alcoholic who died of alcoholism and never had a second chance at life. So my getting sober then is in the process of becoming. And I think that’s documented well in the movie.

I’m not an expert about anything. Anybody who says they’re an expert about addiction – how can you be an expert about something so vague? You can generally educate and say this is generally what happens, but I’ve just seen too much [to standardize] what is the thread that goes through this process that people – drug addicts and alcoholics – transform themselves — it’s indefinable. So how can you be an expert about something that’s indefinable? You can be an expert about describing it and describing generally what happens, but there is no cookie cut formula and that’s my problem with the industry itself that says there is a cookie cut formula.

This film also isn’t a cookie cutter documentary, using claymation to depict some of Bob’s drug use and since it was filmed over many years, the film’s interviews look to be conducted on several different types of cameras, which give it an interesting texture. Was that something you embraced or was it frustrating over time?

KB: I started to embrace that. I think as time went on, I really had a desire for the film to want to look better, but I really embraced the formats of the ’80s too. I really love the way VHS cam looks. I really love the way Super 16 looks. And it really was just a collective of all these different formats, so the Panasonic camera, the SD camera that we used to shoot Anthony [Kiedis] and a couple of those interviews on, that was the popular camera in 2006. Cut to 2010 when we interview Courtney Love and we’re shooting on an HD cam, then you up-res it all to HD, which is the format now, it’s the great sum of the SD cam that used to look really good. So it was a process that could’ve been disheartening, but I learned to embrace it. And so you know what? This is a story that was told over 30 years and at the end, it gets super clean because we’re in present day and in the ’80s, it was really gritty.

BF: Just as a viewer, I think it’s like the memories of things. Some are cloudy, some are distinct – that’s how I see it. I don’t mind that it shifts all around. It seems to bother film people more than just fans of film. [Pointing to Keirda] She saw some blurriness and I’m like the whole thing is memories and ideas and trying to recapture and trying to show [what happened]. [laughs]

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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